Barak Approves Social Security Payments to Gaza Residents

In a goodwill gesture Israel will transfer NIS 25 million to Gaza residents who were employed in Israel.

As a goodwill gesture, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has authorized the annual transfer of NIS 25 million to Gaza Strip residents entitled to social security and pension payments from Israel.

Since ties between Israeli banks and Palestinian banks in the Gaza Strip were severed following the Hamas takeover in the Strip and the declaration of the area as a "hostile entity," there have been serious difficulties in transferring funds to approximately 1,000 beneficiaries who were employed in Israel in the past and currently live in the Gaza Strip.

The proposal for creating a new mechanism for the transfer of the funds was prepared by a staff headed by the government coordinator of activities in the territories, Major General Eitan Dangot, and including representatives of the Justice Ministry, the Israel Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority, the treasury, the National Insurance Institute, the Bank of Israel and security officials.

Relevant officials in the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah have expressed willingness to oversee the process of money transfers. The social security and pension payments will be made monthly by the Palestinian Authority to a list of beneficiaries, and the money will be deposited in Ramallah-based banks, who will in turn transfer the money to banks in the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday night, the Palestinian Authority received an updated version of the Israeli proposal for its final authorization, and the Palestinians will begin preparing for the operation of the money transfer mechanism. The mechanism will enable the PA to bolster somewhat its links to the Gaza Strip and improve its standing in the region.

It was reported during the weekend that Barak had informed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Israel would be willing to pay $10.5 million to compensate for the damage caused to the UN buildings and property in the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead. This would be the first time that Israel pays compensation for damage caused during the operation.

According to a BBC report, the decision to pay compensation followed months of discussions, and Barak relayed the decision personally to the UN chief, presenting it as a gesture of good will toward the organization.

The secretary general is scheduled to report to the UN General Assembly on the implementation of the decision of November 3, 2009, in which Israel was required to investigate claims in the report by Richard Goldstone on the fighting in the Gaza Strip and allegations of violations of the rules of war and international law during Operation Cast Lead.

The UN resolution granted Israel and the Palestinians three months to carry out internal investigations and report to the UN on their findings. If Israel continues to refuse to carry out such an investigation, the matter may be referred to the Security Council.

The U.S. has pressured Israel on this matter, hinting that it would be difficult to prevent the process by use of its veto power at the Security Council.